Wednesday, August 19, 2009

‘Appropriately in Rockland’

Another autumn event on the Magpie Mason’s schedule is Grand Master’s Day at Tappan. On Sunday, October 11, MW Edward Gilbert, Grand Master of New York, will welcome the brethren to DeWint House, the Revolutionary War historic site owned and operated by the Grand Lodge of New York. Appropriately for Masons, it is located in a county called Rockland.

Never been there, so I don’t know what to expect, but there will be a brunch at 11 a.m. at Old ’76 House, reputed to be the oldest tavern in New York – and that’s saying something! – having served the public since 1686. The festivities at DeWint House will begin at 2 p.m.

What the two historic sites share in common is the treason of Gen. Benedict Arnold. You know the story: the once admired Continental Army general betrayed the Revolution by attempting to help the British capture the West Point garrison. His contact was Major John André, who was captured, tried and executed for his espionage. DeWint House repeatedly served as a headquarters for George Washington, including during the trial and execution of André in 1780, while Old ’76 House was known as “André’s prison” because he was incarcerated there during his trial.

Left: Old ’76 House. Right: DeWint House. Both are located in historic Tappan, in Rockland County, New York, just a few minutes over the New Jersey border. Come October, the landscape should be beautiful, with the leaves turning and the air acquiring its autumnal chill.

DeWint House is the oldest surviving structure in Rockland County, and is renowned as an excellent showcase of Dutch Colonial architecture. It has been owned and operated by New York Freemasonry for more than 60 years. In 1966 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The adjacent Carriage House serves as the visitors center and offers many exhibits of George Washington and other historic interests.

An additional Masonic link is the 20° of the AASR, titled “Master ad Vitam.” The degree has been rewritten a number of times during the past two centuries. In 1896, a drama was added that told a fictional story of Frederick II of Prussia visiting a lodge in 1763. A story within the drama tells of a spy who gains entrance to the lodge with a patent that actually was a map of a fortress. The spy escapes, but a Gen. Wallraven was caught and sentenced to life in prison for his complicity in the espionage. His sentence is reduced to exile.

In the aftermath of World War I, when American sentiment toward people and things German was cold, and when Masonic lodges banned the German language from lodge activities, this degree was rewritten again, with a new setting and new historical characters, substituting Washington for Frederick the Great, and Arnold taking the place of Wallraven.

I wonder if the New York Scottish Rite brethren ever conferred this degree at DeWint House. Seems like a natural fit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

How it was done in ‘Antient’ times

Peninsula Lodge, No. 99 in Bayonne, New Jersey will exemplify an Entered Apprentice Degree in Antients ritual c. 1760 next month.

At its Regular Communication of September 24, Peninsula Lodge, No. 99 – the Magpie Mason’s mother lodge – will host a special event that mixes Masonic education with a great meal, plenty of toasts, and perhaps even more mirth than the lodge usually enjoys... and that’s saying something!

On that evening, W. Bro. Ben Hoff, Master of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education, No. 1786 in Trenton, will visit the lodge to quarterback Peninsula’s officers through an exemplification of a ritual that otherwise exists only in rarely seen texts.

This very singular occurrence is an EA° compiled from primary 18th century sources, namely the ritual exposures known as Three Distinct Knocks, and Jachin and Boaz, as well as other texts. This is the ritual of the Antients, the branch of Freemasonry that solidified following the public debut of the Premier Grand Lodge of England in 1717. The Antients began as Irish Masons in London whose lodges welcomed working class men, soldiers, and merchants, in contrast to the nobility, middle and upper class, and academic elites found in the Grand Lodge’s lodges. (Freemasonry in the United States descends almost entirely from the Antients, who formed their own grand lodge in 1751 called Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England, according to the Old Constitutions. In 1813, the two grand lodges merged, forming the United Grand Lodge of England.)

Anyway, about this ritual.

“Eighteenth century degrees took place in taverns or hotel function rooms rather than in the formally arranged and decorated lodge rooms we use today,” Ben explains. “All lodge arrangements were temporary and symbolic. Officers stood in their places, and decorations were either small and portable, or were temporary. While the ‘Moderns’ represented the lodge with floor cloths or elaborate floor drawings, the representations in ‘Antients’ lodges were almost entirely symbolic.”

“This symbolic lodge should be at least six feet tall and four feet wide to allow for the placement of the candidate and three tall candlesticks within the diagram, while officers stand around the outside,” Ben added. “Ideally, it should be positioned within the open area of the U-shape table typically used at table lodges. Notice the X-shape cross should be extended below the rectangle proper to create the three ‘steps.’ Leave enough room around the outside of the diagram for the officers to stand while still allowing the candidate and his conductor to move around the outside of the diagram for the circumambulation.

“The VSL should be on a small table or pedestal (a chair will do) in front the WM’s station, the square and compasses arranged as EA. Place three candles in tall holders in the East, West and South of the diagram. The East candle should be slightly to the north to allow the candidate to approach the pedestal/chair for the OB.

“The officers for this degree are the Master, Wardens, Deacons, Secretary (Treasurer is optional) and an Immediate Past Master, who would take the place of a Chaplain or Marshal. The officers should stand in their accustomed places OUTSIDE the diagram, except for the Secretary and Treasurer, who stand together in the North. The Wardens should carry their columns held vertical in their right hands. The Deacons would have their long rods, grounded unless otherwise in use.”

And the rest? You’ll just have to see it yourself. There is food and drink, call and response – a true multi-sensory experience worthy of the Middle Chamber Lecture’s instruction! – and even singing. (Or, more accurately, there is Bro. Matthew Birkhead’s Enter’d ’prentices Song. It remains to be seen if the brethren can sing.)

The Magpie Mason had the good fortune to witness this exemplification at Ben’s mother lodge – Highland Park, No. 240 – several years ago, and it was one of the greatest evenings I’ve enjoyed in 12 years in Masonry. At the end of the night, everyone present was glowing, and not only from the wine. Even if they didn’t intend it, they learned something very important about the history and culture of Freemasonry – the primary goal, of course, of this blog.

Brethren, seating will be at a premium that night. I expect a huge turn-out from the lodge and the surrounding district, so if you would like to attend, let me know by e-mailing me at ____ as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New AASR blog and French site

There’s a new blog in town... and it addresses a long overlooked facet of Masonic education.

Ill. Cliff Jacobs of the Valley of New York City released this announcement today:

Illustrious & Distinguished Brothers, Sublime Princes, Brothers All:

The New York State Council of Deliberation, under the leadership of the Deputy for the State of New York, Ill. Peter J. Samiec, 33°, is pleased to announce the launch of a new site devoted to Masonic research: the New York State Council of Deliberation Blog.

Although created as a blog, the site is not a forum for debate. Instead it will serve as the repository for Masonic research papers. Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following: Freemasonry including both the York and Scottish rites, Rosicrucianism, Templarism, Kabbalism and Western Mystery Traditions.

In order to avoid issues of copyright infringement, authors of papers submitted must be able to assert their moral right to be identified as the sole author of the created work. Reference material used in the creation of the work should be properly cited. Authors retain all intellectual rights over their research papers and shall indemnify the New York State Council of Deliberation from any third party claims resulting from the publication of articles on the website.

Please e-mail your papers to:

Ill. Clifford Jacobs, 33°
Valley of New York
waznojake2001 (at)

Please submit text in the Word format and graphics in the JPG format.

The first paper: “A Historical Perspective of the 29th Degree,” by Mete Talimcioglu, MSA, Commander-in-Chief of the Valley of New York.

You can access the site by clicking here.

Please be sure to bookmark! – “The game’s afoot...”

Respectfully & fraternally submitted,

Ill. Clifford Jacobs, 33°
Valley of New York

The Magpie Mason has learned of this only from Ill. Cliff’s announcement moments ago, but on the surface it seems the inspired work of the Rose Circle Research Foundation, on whose board Cliff serves, is crossing over to New York Masonry. A good thing.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Bro. Guy Chassagnard, a researcher-author from Le Delta Quercy-Rouergue Lodge No. 1173 in France, also announced today on Masonic Light that one of his Scottish Rite brethren has created a bilingual website to serve as a public repository of Masonic documents and books.

I wish to let all the members of the list know that a French Mason (Scottish Rite from 1st Degree) has just opened a website which is to be a public Masonic library of books and documents.

It may be used in French and in English.

You may find and get documents (pdf) from the site.

You may freely subscribe and have your own books and documents offered to other viewers.

No fee, no censorship.

I think it is a very good project to support. Have a look to the first 50 documents which may be freely loaded and get them if you want.



Merci Frère Guy!